The description, cover, and title combination for Lakesedge caught my attention right away, and I was glad to be granted an advanced copy. The story itself pulled me in right away, with intriguing world building and a strong older sister fighting to keep her younger brother safe in an abusive environment. The magic/ religious system in the story is interesting and cohesive, and the world as described seemed welcoming and pleasant. Well, mostly. At first. Then the magic really started. And the romance. And the drama. And the impulsive and often self-destructive decisions.
Violetta is extremely self-sacrificing when it comes to protecting her loved ones, and not good at caring for herself at all. The more you get to understand the trauma she has been through, the more her behavior makes sense, but it still gets a little tiresome after awhile. I felt like this was very YA, with maximum angst, both familial and romantic. There’s also some sort of love triangle, and the story ends on a cliffhanger. I keep forgetting that “lush” as a book descriptor means all the purple prose describing everything, and while this book wasn’t terrible, I got a little tired of hearing about how everything tastes like ash or burned sugar or poison or whatever, and how there were strings tied from / tightening her heart, etc. And this is very much my own preference, but some of the things these characters, especially Leta, went through, and the losses they endured, just felt like too much. I could see how the writing is gothic fantasy bordering on horror.
I did love the LGBTQ+ rep, as multiple supporting characters had same sex preferences or were bi/pan, and Leta appeared to be demisexual. And while this is wholly a fantasy setting, and Violetta and her brother are fair skinned and red headed, there’s also a fair amount of supporting characters who are described as having darker skin, curly hair, etc. Also, women have a lot of agency in this story, and while most of the people with leadership roles in the story (lords, village leaders, etc) were male, several of the female characters filled important professional roles and all the women were treated with respect. (The characters definitely existed on a gender binary, and there was no non-binary representation that I can remember.
Overall this was an enjoyable, if sometimes slightly redundant and slow read. I finished it in a few days around the autumn holidays. While I’m not sure I’ll bother reading the sequel, I nevertheless appreciate #NetGalley and Macmillan granting me a free electronic advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.